(Lobelia inflata) Bellflower family
Flowers - Pale blue or violet, small, borne at short intervals in
spike-like leafy racemes. Calyx 5-parted, its awl-shaped lobes
1/4 in. long, or as long as the tubular, 2-lipped, 5-cleft,
corolla that opens to base of tube on
upper side. Stamens, 5
united by their hairy anthers into a ring around the 2-lobed
style. Stem: From 1 to 3 feet high, hairy, very acrid, much
branched, leafy. Leaves: Alternate, oblong or ovate, toothed, the
upper ones acute, seated on stem; lower ones obtuse, petioled, to
2 1/2 in. long. Fruit: A much inflated, rounded, ribbed, many
Preferred Habitat - Dry fields and thickets; poor soil.
Flowering Season - July-November.
Distribution - Labrador westward to the Missouri River, south to
Arkansas and Georgia.
The most stupid of the lower animals knows enough to let this
poisonous, acrid plant alone; but not so man, who formerly made a
quack medicine from it in the days when a drug that set one's
internal organism on fire was supposed to be especially
beneficial. One taste of the plant gives a realizing sense of its
value as an emetic. How the red man enjoyed smoking and chewing
the bitter leaves, except for the drowsiness that followed, is a
On account of the smallness of its flowers and their scantiness,
the Indian tobacco is perhaps the least attractive of the
lobelias, none of which has so inflated a seed vessel, the
distinguishing characteristic of this common plant.
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